On Retaining the Beneficial Elements of GCSE Coursework


In Indonesia you can get a driving licence by having a brief chat about road signs with a police officer and paying a fee. A practical test is not needed. I have had to drive in Jakarta, it accounts for most of my gray hair. It is worrying, then, that we are moving towards a similar notion in our education system. What use is it if a student can work out the area of a rectangle but it would never occur to them to use that knowledge to work out how much carpet they need for their room, how much grass seed to buy, or how to make the best use of a given space?

We need to think about how to preserve the important aspect of assessing a student’s ability to use and apply knowledge in our exam system. In the specific context of asking others, reading around or working as a group is not “cheating”. Rather, it is what all scientists do. Doing such things shows initiative.

I would suggest replacing the abolished coursework element with something like an “open exam”. In this, students would be given a practical problem to investigate, and for a fixed time they could look at the problem as a group and use a number of resources provided by the exam board. Then, under exam conditions, each student would write a report on a proposed solution to the problem. This could be assessed by the board, in order to avoid putting additional workload onto teachers.

In summary, I believe that through the method of an open exam, a GCSE would not merely certify that the student could answer certain exam questions on a given day, but would also show the extent to which they use their learning independently.

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